Oxford United’s efforts to develop a new stadium have moved a step forward with a second stage of public engagement outlined, while the English League One football club has revealed more details about its vision for the project.
Oxfordshire County Council announced yesterday (Tuesday) that it had received updates on the proposals for a stadium near Kidlington, including a summary of stakeholder engagement held in April and May and plans for public engagement in June and July.
The proposal is for the stadium to be located on council-owned land, known as ‘the Triangle’, with consultation currently taking place over the venture. The club’s plans to develop a new stadium moved a step forward in March after Oxfordshire County Council agreed a Memorandum of Understanding on the project.
The County Council’s Cabinet approved an agreement with United to govern open and transparent relations between the two parties while they work to explore the impact of a new stadium. The initial public consultation has seen some opposition to the venture with United stating that it welcomed concerns raised after local residents in Kidlington rejected the project during a vote held on May 10.
Speaking yesterday, Cllr Calum Miller, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “We are committed to taking decision on this proposal in an open and transparent way, with the help of comments and engagement from stakeholders and members of the public.
“I’d like to thank the organisations who have attended meetings with us and responded constructively to our engagement. This process has been separate to the engagement activities of the football club.
“We asked OUFC to supply us with information of a level of quality, detail and commitment that would allow us – and members of the public – to take a view on whether or not our strategic objectives for any use of OCC land had been met. We hope to receive such information in the next fortnight. If so, we will be undertaking further public and stakeholder engagement during June and July. This would include an online survey and public exhibitions.
“The feedback we receive from residents and stakeholders will help inform our decision making. That timetable would allow the cabinet to make a final decision in September on whether or not to lease or sell the land to the club for the development of a stadium.”
If a decision were made by cabinet to make available the land to United for development of a new stadium, formal consultation would be required to take place as part of a statutory planning process that would be conducted by Cherwell District Council as planning authority.
United currently plays at the Kassam Stadium, but the club does not own the venue and its lease deal to play at the 12,500-seat facility expires in 2026.
On Monday, it was revealed that United is projecting that the cost of a developing a 16,000 to 18,000 capacity stadium, with additional commercial elements, will exceed £100m (€115m/$123.9m). The Oxford Mail said United has issued a factsheet to councillors and MPs involved in the decision making process.
The factsheet read: “The club is confident that the money will be raised in the markets, with the security of its owners standing behind the club. This is a major investment in Oxfordshire, providing a new home for the county’s sole professional sports club and a new commercial and community hub for Kidlington and north Oxford.
“If the project proceeds, the seating capacity will be in the 16,000 to 18,000 range, a size that is smaller than many other grounds but that will allow integration into The Triangle site with open space and a green barrier enhanced and maintained between Oxford and Kidlington.
“If a planning application is approved it is likely that groundworks, construction and site testing may take up to 18 months. The club will continue to engage with the local community during construction, and will provide community updates when the building is finished. The planned opening date would be for the 2026/2027 football season.”
United states the stadium will be “much more than a venue for football matches”. While proposals for other uses are still being developed, the club confirmed a hotel is part of its thinking, along with several other commercial and community uses for the spaces under the stands such as a restaurant, a gym, plus other health and well-being uses.